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12 for 12 for Erin’s birthday

Happy 12th Birthday Erin!

For your birthday blog, I’m going to switch things up a little bit this year. Instead of writing on and on and on about what a great kid you are, and how much you’ve accomplished in the last 12 months, I’m keeping it simple. Not because you suddenly turned into an awful tween who dropped out of middle school, (you haven’t) but sometimes it’s nice to try something different, you know, get out of your comfort zone.

So here it goes in no particular order…. drumroll please….. the first (and probably only) top 12 List of things I love about Erin!

Erin’s top 12 List

  1. You’ve got a unique sense of style. This year for Hanukkah, you noticed I bought you a fair amount of clothes, but were not exactly thrilled with what I picked out. Instead you turn to your big sister to help you. I’ve got to admit. I kind of loved it. 

  2. When you’re into something you’re really into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite sweatshirt, Taylor Swift, or sporting event, when you get obsessed, you get obsessed. It’s actually kind of cute.

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    The favorite sweatshirt, one that gets worn at least 5 times a week.
  3. You take pride of ownership. You’re a kid who works hard at everything you’ve done. Whether school, soccer, or art, you give it 100%! You know I love that about you, but I do sometimes worry that if you don’t get 100%, you take that a little too personally.
  4. While you are a high achiever, you also LOVE your downtime. You’re definitely a kid of extremes. You’re just as happy practicing soccer out in the rain as you are to spend hours vegging out and watching YouTube. In fact, during the week, you set your alarm just to make sure you get in your YouTube time.
  5. You’re a creature of habit– and routine. You don’t love cooking, but you love having an easy go-to breakfast. So what did you do? You decided to make a big batch of breakfast burritos… with rice-o-roni. That stuff is awful, but you love it.

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    A girl and her burritos
  6. You’re big on current events. This kind of goes along with your routine. Without fail, at 7:00 a.m. every morning during the school year, you flip on the TV to watch the Today Show. Then, on our drive to school, we usually talk about what you watched. Other times, we listen to the Sarah & Vinnie Show on Alice radio, and I’m usually forced to have an awkward conversation about something that’s not meant for 11 & 9 year old ears.
  7. Speaking of awkward conversations, you don’t mind talking about all sorts of bodily functions from farts and poops, to periods and other parts of puberty. Oh to be a fly on the wall during some of our dinner conversations. Poor Dad.
  8. You’re willing to get out of your comfort zone. I never figured you for a public speaker. You tend to shy away from the limelight, so imagine my surprise when you submitted a speech to give at your graduation. It was so good, your classmates chose you as one of two speakers. You wouldn’t let me read it in advance, (plus it was all in Spanish) but you killed it! 

  9. You’ve got a silly side to you. You may take your studies seriously, you don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re quick to giggle with that adorable laugh of yours, one that makes you squish your nose and shoulders shake. But you also love making other people laugh, usually by telling them “uncle jokes.”
  10. You’re gritty. No, not in the dirty kind of way, but in the “I’m going to muscle my way to figure it out,” kind of way. You may like to relax, but you very rarely take the easy way out.
  11. You support Dad in HIS obsession with Mizzou sports, even when they have horrible years, which have been many.
  12. You have one big ♥️!

I could continue this list, but 12 is a good number. As with every year, I know you have more surprises in store for me. You and your sisters do a great job of keeping life interesting!

I love you kiddo!

Mom

She’s 9 and fine

Happy 9th Birthday, Carrie!

Your name inspires many nicknames, like Care Bear, or Carrie Berry, or CJ — although that last nickname, derived from the first letter of your first and middle names, never really stuck.

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You may be known as many things, but to me, you’ll always be my sweet youngest daughter, who can swing through a flurry of emotions in a matter of minutes. You may wake up in a foul mood because we’ve run out of bagels for breakfast or you can’t find your favorite Missouri Tiger scrunchie for your hair. I know well enough just to wait a few minutes and you’ll inevitably light up the room with your grin and a giggle as I dare you not to crack a smile. Try as you might, it’s just not in you to stay angry and upset.

While I know what I can do to turn your mood around, you’ve also got a surefire way to make me laugh. All you have to do is start speaking with an Italian accent, which you can do at the drop of a hat. I don’t know what it is about a 3rd grader sounding like Geppetto from Pinocchio, but it gets me every time. I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that you do it just to make me laugh, and if it’s that’s the case, please don’t ever stop. I love that you love entertaining me and others.

You’ve got a flair for the dramatic, but usually save it just for your family and best buds.  Theater goers got a glimpse of your talent in this year’s school production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

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While the audience saw an incredible performance of a “squirrel” and a “wall,” at home you really shined. You belted out all the songs and proved you could have stood in as Veruca Salt if she ever went down with the flu.  That didn’t happen, so only a select few heard you sing “I want it Now,” over and over and over again. It may have been a little too good at times. Where you got your singing and dancing talents, I’ll never know. It certainly didn’t come from me or Dad.

You’re a special kid who’s slowly coming into your own. Don’t be afraid to let others see how awesome I already know you are!

In last year’s birthday blog, I wrote about you fretting over not losing any teeth. Well, I’m happy to report you’ve lost a ton of them in your 8th year. Are you now up to 5 teeth? See, I’ve lost count.

All I know is at one point it looked like you had more missing teeth than remaining ones in your mouth.At least your two front teeth are now coming in, although one is dropping at a peculiar angle. I’m pretty certain you’ll follow your sisters with a mouth full of metal.

This has also been the year of Harry Potter. After going to Universal Studios and walking through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you became hooked.

You were Hermoine Granger for Halloween (a great choice I must say) and we’re slowly making our way through the books and movies. As of now, we’re on Book #4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). We’ve renewed the 734 page monstrosity of a book 3 times from the library and I just got the notice today that we’ve maxed out and the book must go back. We’ve hit a temporary roadblock, but nothing a good spell can’t solve.

As I think back to your eighth wondrous year, Carrie, I can’t help but beam with pride. I know I say something similar every year, but it’s true. You’ve filled our home with so much joy and laughter, and maybe a few (actually 100s) shouts of “shut-up Olivia.” You’ve crushed this last year and I’m sure your 9th year will be filled with many more surprises and adventures with you playing the starring role.

I love you Care Bear!

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xoxo

Mom

Erin’s 11!

Happy Birthday, E!

You’ve crushed your first year into double digits, kiddo. Way to go!

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This year you’ve been ready for whatever comes your way, be it school, soccer, or plowing through the entire series of “Lemony Snickets and a Series of Unfortunate Events.” As I’m a book lover too, I loved seeing your enthusiasm as you’d finish each book. You’d come into our bedroom way past your bedtime with the biggest smile on your face, talking a million miles a minute about how good the book was, and how you couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series.

And as Daddy is a huge lover of binge watching Netflix, he loved how excited you were counting down until the Lemony Snickets TV series became available to stream online. I got to admit, I took great joy in it too. I’m not sure what I liked more; the show (which was quite entertaining) or watching it with you. You find joy in simple things and it’s infectious.

At the end of this year, you’ll say adios to Adelante, a school you’ve called home for six years and move onto middle school. Middle school! I had to write that twice because I really don’t know how your elementary school career is almost over. I don’t want to say that it happened in the blink of an eye, but it really feels that way. As I write this in the kitchen, I’m looking at your 4th grade class photo hanging on the fridge, and I can’t help but smile. It brings back so many memories. From your decision sometime in 3rd grade to wear only shorts to school, a record that continues to this day, to your anxious excitement waiting for your report cards, you’ve re-written the code for how to do school.

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You’ve got a great posse of friends who have your back, and you’ve got theirs. I remember back when you were in kindergarten, making friends didn’t come easy for you. I even blogged about it, back when I wrote more than just birthday blogs for you and your sisters. You’ve come a long way since then, Erin. You’re comfortable in your own skin and you’ve found a great group of friends who like you just the way you are.

I think one of the reasons why they like you so much is for your kindness. You’re just kind. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve got opinions and you don’t sugarcoat them. But….but. Those opinions are never expressed to hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel bad. That’s just not in your DNA. You’re simply a keen observer of people and life and you share those observations in a very matter of fact way. It’s a great trait to have. I hope you don’t lose it. Too many people tend to tell people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. Staying honest while at the same time staying kind will serve you well. I think our current President could learn a thing or two from you.

You’re good at expressing your opinions, but I’d love to see you express more of your feelings. That’s a hard one, I know. I’m not always good at that either. Happy and silly feelings, you show no problem. It’s the other ones you tend to hold tightly inside of you. But as the Frozen song goes, “Let it go.” Ok, maybe I should have saved that one for Carrie, not you, but you get the idea. I couldn’t think of a good Lady Gaga song that fit.

Now that your braces are off, how about doing your Mom a favor and show off your pearly whites a little more often?  You’ve got an awesome smile and I like seeing it without metal. Let’s just hope you don’t follow in your big sister’s footsteps and have to go for round number two.

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Erin, in this last year, you’ve made me laugh, smile and shake my head in wonder more times than I can count. While you’ve given me lots more laugh lines, you’ve also given me plenty more gray hairs. Thanks for that. As you move full on into your ‘tween years, I can only imagine what’s in store for both of us. One thing’s for certain. It certainly won’t be boring, not with you leading the way.

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I love you, kiddo!

Happy Birthday and I’m glad it finally stopped raining for your birthday!

Mom

 

 

 

Skiing in Switzerland

Leading up to our trip to the Swiss Alps, we had one sick kid on our hands, but I was hoping it was a case of food poisoning, not a stomach bug. By the time we left for Klosters, Carrie was feeling much better. Did we dodge the sickness bullet? I had my fingers and toes crossed that we did.

We arrived around noon and so far so good. We got checked into the hotel and the girls were ready to play in the snow. We lucked out and the snow had just started falling a day earlier. Klosters is a really cute mountain town, small enough that you can walk to the gondola, but big enough to find places to eat.

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Our hotel, the Piz Buin, worked perfectly for us. There was a long balcony outside our rooms and the girls promptly got to work trying to build a snowman. Unfortunately, they couldn’t cobble together quite enough for their vision of a snowman.

We then had to rent our ski equipment and get the kids and husband signed up for lessons. At this point, still no sign of sickness. Score. We had a couple of hours before dinner, so we started up a game of Scrabble. While some of us where scoring  big points in the game, it soon became apparent we were not going to escape another bout of sickness. This time it was Olivia’s turn. Just like Carrie, when it hit her, it hit her hard. Perfect timing for it to hit her, right after we bought her lesson, lift ticket, and ski rentals. I hoped for a miraculous recovery so she could ski the next day, but it was not meant to be, so she stayed with Auntie while the rest of us ventured out into the snowy conditions.

While the snow was much-needed and helpful, it made visibility a challenge.

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I promise. The Swiss Alps are somewhere behind me

The weather challenge also meant Carrie and Erin didn’t get as much out of their lessons as I would have liked. They stayed on the baby hill in the kids ski school all day and didn’t get to experience the gondola or trekking from the gondola to the ski runs. After  one day, Carrie decided she didn’t want to go for a second day.

The stomach bug that invaded Olivia’s immune system left after 24 hours, allowing her to at least ski for one day. As she said. “It would have really sucked to have come all the way to Switzerland and not be able to ski.” I couldn’t agree more. It also allowed Erin to get in another day of skiing and take a ride on the gondola.

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The smiles show how much they enjoyed their day on the mountain, but alas all good things must come to an end, and this photo meant the end to our time in the Alps.

The snow storm that blanketed the Alps also hit my sister-in-law’s town of Zug. It didn’t make walking to the bus station easy, but for 3 California kids, they were in snow angel heaven.

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Up ’til this point, we had not yet indulged in the best known Swiss cuisine, fondue. We saved it for our final night in Switzerland.  I had forgotten that one of the ingredients in fondue was wine, and at least at the restaurant we were at, they didn’t hold back  the booze. While it was fine for me and the husband, it was too boozy for the kids.

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This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I’m so thankful we were able to share it with the kids. We’ve been so fortunate to be able to travel the world with the kids and I’ve got a feeling it will instill a lifelong love of travel in them. Erin has already said she wants to be able to see all 7 wonders of the world. I told her to start saving now for those trips….. and save enough to bring me along for the ride.

The List

I’m not usually one for making lists. I’m more of a wing-it kind of gal, one that will go to the grocery store to pick up milk, fill up a cart with food, only to leave sans milk because I didn’t make a list. My kids tend to take after their Dad when it comes to lists. They like to make ’em and yesterday, with help from her Dad, Carrie made one that is the list to end all lists.  When I got to work yesterday morning, the husband texted me this picture and said, “Someone’s going to be very busy tomorrow!”

The List
The List

Shockingly, her writing is pretty good for a 5-year-old and looks eerily similar to the husband’s. The writing may be his, but the words are all hers. This is a list of things “To Do with Mommy.” Of course, there’s a story behind the genesis of this list. Since Carrie goes to a Jewish preschool, she gets all sorts of random days off for semi-obscure Jewish holidays. Today she was off for Shavuot. (Yeah, I had to look it up too.) That meant we had a rare Thursday morning when it was just going to be me and her, and my girl had plans for us. Big plans. Plans that included playing. Lots of playing, and drawing, and painting, and fort building. I’m happy to say, we got through most of this list, and then some.

When I first realized she didn’t have school on one of my days off from work, I admit, I was less than thrilled. I look forward to my Thursday and Friday mornings when I’m not at work and I don’t have the kids. I get things done without little people asking me a million questions, or the little people fighting with each other. I have quiet. I love the quiet!

So this was not a quiet morning, but it was one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve had in a long time. And while we did do a lot of the things on the list like playing games, drawing, 

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and building forts, we also strayed from it. Part of it was for selfish reasons. We were out of milk so I had to make a Trader Joe’s run. This time though, with a certain 5-year old reminding me, I remembered the milk! I also had to return a very overdue library book, so we made a special trip to the library, just me and her. 

Then we headed out to lunch.

Sushi and lemonade. What a combination.

 

As we walked into the restaurant, Carrie had a huge grin on her face. She was happy. In between munching away on her edamame and slurping down her big gulp sized lemonade Carrie admitted to me, “Mommy, this place is much better than Old Spaghetti Factory.” For her to make that declaration, this had to be one good lunch, and it warmed this sushi loving mom’s heart. Plus, I hate Old Spaghetti Factory. 

After lunch it was almost time to pick up the other two girls from school. At that point Carrie whined, “But we didn’t do everything on the list.” We didn’t, but I figured we could squeeze in a couple of minutes of playing outside at a neighborhood park.

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I didn’t want to end our day with whining and seeing her happily swing away for five minutes was worth the detour.

Carrie’s list has got me thinking maybe I should start making lists. Not grocery lists. That won’t happen. But maybe lists of things I want to do with the kids. Or things I want to do with the husband. Or even things I want to do for myself. I think I’ve got a lot of lists to make.

“Now This is Minnesota!”

I’m appreciating the Land of 10,000 Lakes more now than when I was an actual resident. Granted, I’m writing this on the heels of one fantastic summer vacation to Minnesota, when there was only one really hot and humid day and only one mosquito bit me. I’m also able to appreciate it through the eyes of my three kids, who revel in all things Minnesota, especially their family.

Spending just about every day either in the pool or on a lake also helped them find little to complain about during this trip.

Welcome to Lake Minnetonka

Yep, it doesn’t get much better than hanging out on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, unless you’re able to spend it tubing on the Lake, which we were lucky enough to do for a couple of hours.

Ready to Tube!
Catching a (small) wave

This was Erin’s first time tubing and all things considered she had a great time, although she did fall off one time on my watch. By the panicked look on her face, she was nearing a meltdown but the captain of the boat told her to keep calm while quickly circling back to her. Now had I told her to calm down, I know she would have lost it, but apparently she has no problem following directions from a near stranger. While taking a tumble off the tube did give her quite the scare, kudos to her for getting back on it.

She may be hanging on for dear life, but she’s still back on.

Olivia also took a couple of spills, and as Carrie pointed out to us numerous times, she was the only kid who never fell off the tube.

Wee!

That may have something to do with the fact that the husband and I had the death grip around her.

Not to be outdone by his granddaughters, my dad bravely climbed aboard the tube, with a young assistant helping him.

Poppa Mickey Showing the Kids How it’s Done

The tubing excursion is what led Carrie to exclaim, “Now this is Minnesota!”

I’d have to agree, but for others in my family, most notably my Dad, he’s just as content to be fishing on the lake. So that’s what he did with his five oldest grandkids.

Poppa Mickey Telling Erin Another Fish Tale

With help from my two brothers, my Dad took the kids out on a two-hour tour of the best fishing spots on Lake Waconia.

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I may have caught the fish, but I don’t want to touch it

He apparently found them all because all five grandkids each reeled in a couple of fish. Beginner’s luck maybe, but a successful first fishing experience means it likely won’t be their last.

My girls may be California born, but they’ll always have a little bit of Minnesota in them.

 

 

 

 

 

Family Matters

Spending a week with family can be exhausting. Scratch that. It is exhausting, but since we live about 2000 miles away from most of our immediate family, we are spending a week with them in Minnesota.

Yes, there are moments when my family can drive me crazy, but then there are moments like this:

Identical Cousins?

and this:

A gaggle of cousins

and this:

 

that make it more than worth the time, expense, and inevitable frustrations that go along with visiting family for an entire week.

I have no idea what they’re discussing, but I’m pretty sure the elder is learning as much from the 4-year old, as the little one is learning from her great-great Aunt Lillian. This one image alone is worth the trip.

My kids usually only see their cousins once a year at best, but when they do get together, it’s obvious they enjoy hanging out.

In addition to seeing my family, the husband’s family also drove up from Missouri to see the kids.

Although they’re not necessarily fans of swimming, little makes them happier than seeing their grandkids frolicking in the pool.

They’re also not Minnesota Twins fans, or MLB Baseball fans in general, but they traipsed up to the very top row of Target Field to take in a baseball game with their family.

Pint-sized patriots at the Ball Game

All these images and countless others that I missed snapping are what makes a family.

We may have a crazy family, but I’ll take the craziness any day.